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GM Tries Robotic Arm and 3D Printed Parts at Assembly Plants

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【Summary】General Motors has been testing a wealth of new technologies at its assembly plants, including a robotic arm and 3D printed parts.

Mia Bevacqua    Jul 22, 2018 8:56 AM PT
GM Tries Robotic Arm and 3D Printed Parts at Assembly Plants

Understandably, many assembly line operators dislike the machines that are encroaching on their jobs. But General Motors recently introduced something radical – a robot glove designed to help technology and humankind work together. The device is being tried out alongside 3D printed tools at GM assembly plants. 

RoboGlove lends a hand 

GM's grasp assist device, aptly named RoboGlove, is worn over the user's arm and hand. It's designed to prevent tendon stress by using actuators, pressure sensors, and synthetic tendons. The invention was created by GM and NASA while working on the Robonaut 2 humanoid robot-in-space program.   

Swedish firm, Bioservo Technologies AB, also plays a role in RoboGlove's development. Under license, GM is using the company's Ironhand technology to adapt the Robonaut's grip to gloves. 

Later this year, GM plans to launch a pilot program for the RoboGlove. At least 20 line operators will sample the unit while performing routine work. It's not clear yet which plant will conduct the tests. 

3D printed parts save money on the assembly line

At the Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan, GM Is trying out 3D printed parts on a large scale. The facility has a dedicated area – and large printer – for producing such components.

To be clear, this isn't some rinky-dink printer found in a tinkerer's garage. The enormous tool cost approximately $35,000. According to the General, though, the buy-in price was worth it. Printing parts instead of buying them saved the company around $300,000 over the last two years. 

"We've done many parts for many different applications, including production aids, ergo tools for operators, and prototypes," said Meike. referencing the 3D printed parts made from various powders, including carbon fiber-infused nylon," says Zane Meike, additive manufacturing plant lead.

The applications for both large-scale 3D priting, and bionic limbs are endless. In the near future, these techologies could easily find their way into areas like distribution centers and repair facitlies.

Sources: SAE 

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